Pony club members are tough riders, devoted caretakers

Wednesday, August 19, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT
Kate Pani warms up her horse Fancy That during the Midwest Region Mega Rally at Midway Expo Center in June. Kate, 9, has been riding since the age of 5 at her family farm in Kingdom City where her mother, Gretchen Pani, teaches Hunter/Jumper lessons. The Pani family purchased Maplewood Farm in 1994 and have lived there since. Gretchen regularly offers instruction to HVPC members both privately and in mounted club meetings.

COLUMBIA — Members of the Hinkson Valley Pony Club typically weigh 100 to 130 pounds. Their horses weigh about 10 times that much, between 1,000 and 1,200 pounds. That is a lot of horse for anyone to handle.

Recently, 9-year-old Kate Pani was thrown from her 13.1-hand, 700-pound pony while warming up at the Midwest Region Mega Rally. She dusted herself off and got back on her mount, all within 60 seconds. Kate went on to ride a clean round in the 2’6” show jumping division.

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Go to or call District Commissioner Lora Blair at 573-355-0678.

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These kids are tough. Members of Hinkson Valley Pony Club, and similar clubs across the country, do this every day — not excluding weekends.    

Competitive horse riding is unlike any other sport, said Lora Blair, the club's district commissioner.

"With football or baseball you can put your bat or ball in your closet and not think about it for a week, but you can't do that with horses," Blair said. "They have to be taken care of each and every day."

The Hinkson Valley Pony Club was founded more than 30 years ago and provides mid-Missouri members with opportunities to pursue various equestrian activities and expand their knowledge of horse management skills.

The club hosts mounted meetings every few weeks and holds training sessions in activities such as vaulting, during which a rider performs gymnastic skills on horseback. Club meetings and events are coordinated by parents and rely heavily on both the time and knowledge of a committed corps of volunteers.

Regional team-based competitions are held yearly at the Midwest Region Quiz Rally, Mega Rally and Games Rally traditionally held in the spring, summer and fall respectively. From these competitions, members have the opportunity to advance to national events.

The Hinkson Valley Pony Club has 22 members and is one of about 600 such clubs across the United States that, as a whole, include more than 11,000 members up to 25 years old.

Ratings are one of the defining characteristics of Pony Club. New members join as unrated. Ratings progress from the lower locally awarded ratings of D-1, D-2, D-3, C-1 and C-2 to nationally awarded ratings of C-3, H-B, B, H/H-A and A. Ratings are a general way of assessing the level of competency and knowledge of club members. The H-B, H and H-A ratings focus more on knowledge-based skills such as horse management, safety and teaching while the other ratings are more concerned with mounted skills.

Blair said the most important values the club teaches its members are teamwork and responsibility.

"That horse never leaves — he is going to be there with you from the time that you buy him until his death," she said. "You are always going to have a horse, a live being, that you are going to have to take care of every single day."

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Stacey Bates August 19, 2009 | 4:45 p.m.

Wonderful article about a fantastic group of kids and their families! Proud to be part of the USPC. Thanks so much Ryan

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